Exclusive Interview with Chris Hall of The Dreaming

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After an almost four year hiatus, The Dreaming have returned with their newest album, ‘Rise Again’, which is about to hit shelves February 10th.  After a brutal year of dealing with several guitar player change ups and struggling with their label, Carlton Bost recently made his return to the band, as well as the addition of former Stabbing Westward keyboardist, Walter Flakus. Now, after being signed to Metropolis Records, The Dreaming are ready to start fresh and to close the door on ex managers, who in vain, tried to hold them back by altering their sound into a generic format of rock. Front man, Chris Hall took the time to talk with Substream about The Dreaming’s constant struggle to show to progress in their own sound, each member’s vital role and why their new album, Rise Again is their best work to date.

Substream Magazine: With the release of the single, “Alone”, it has already had this tremendous comparison to your former band Stabbing Westward. Do you ever fear that The Dreaming will always be a mirror of the past?
Chris Hall:
At this particular moment? Yes. I’m so excited about Walter coming back and playing with me. He and I have been friends since high school and he and I always been in bands together and in the ten years that The Dreaming has been together, this is the longest that I have gone without Walter. Since 1983 to 2002, we have been best friends and writing partners. It’s been weird to be writing without him.

It’s been liberating to be doing this new record. since now I can write without limitations In SW I often had  to write vocals around somebody else’s  pre existing music. but now I can write the music to fit my vocals. At the same time, I’ve always felt like there was something missing. Carlton, our guitar player from Orgy, has really been my writing partner by taking my songs and elevating them to the next level. Walter though, he does it in a special way. I was super stoked to have him back playing with me, but at the same time I was terrified of what the die hard fans would say and how it would resurrect this 10 year old ghost of Stabbing Westward. It’s been all that and more.

I think a lot of it was the publicity, that made me nervous, you know? It was the way they released the first wave of publicity. They pretty much said that Stabbing Westward was back. That was all that people talked about, and it’s cool and it got people excited, but it makes me and the rest of The Dreaming feel like the last 10 years of our work has been dismissed. I wonder if Dave Grohl feels that way. I think about that sometimes…I don’t think he ever looks back at Nirvana, but what can you do?

 

SM: This particular song is very dark and one can become lost in the vast, bleak tones. However, your hopeful lyrics reach through the dark and pull the listener to stand back on their feet. What made you want to clash such dark and light tones?
CH:
Well, that’s the world. I was a black and white photographer back in the day when they still used film. You could take a picture of just black but it would just be this overexposed photo. Without light, the dark is just dark and most of this industrial – or whatever you call it- music is just so dark. I understand that there are some people who like to visit a cave and wallow in it but for me, if there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then what is the point? Most of my songs have some sort of hope or something that makes you feel, “Well I feel terrible now but it doesn’t have to be this way forever.” I mean, to me, that is the whole point of music.

 

SM: I know a few bands that dislike being referred to as a Supergroup, rather than just the name of the act as a whole. How do you feel about The Dreaming being labeled as one?
CH:
I think it is ridiculous. Walter, Johnny and I were all in Stabbing Westward together, and Carlton came from Deadsy and now he is in the new version of Orgy. Brent is this super talented bass player who jumps from band to band, but if you look at his musical resume, you will see that he was in Davy Suicide, Psyclon Nine, Static X, Combichrist and The Dreaming…and that’s just the past year! It’s really not a supergroup, it’s not. It’s not like when Chris Cornell and Rage Against the Machine got together. It’s just friends writing together. It’s been me, Carlton, Johnny and Brent for 8 years and we were never considered a super group eight years ago. I mean we do different projects, and yeah Brent joined Static X and Carlton joined Orgy and that’s cool, but we aren’t a supergroup. I would not define us as such.

 

SM: You guys have gone through quite the lineup change, yet here you are with the original members of all three records.
CH: We really just went through one really dark year. [laughs] We had this really crappy record deal and the manager/record label owner -which was a bad sign off the bat for us! – he didn’t like the look and the feel of the band. He wanted us to be more of a Mid-Western rock band. You know, a WWF rock radio kind of a thing. Carlton and Brent are both very gothy and androgynous and they wear a lot of crazy make up and costumes.

The manager’s daughter’s husband wanted to be in a band and he couldn’t really guitar, but the manager thought, ‘Well I’ll just put him in The Dreaming!” This guy jumped from band to band, trying to be a rockstar. Basically, it was just a really dark year.
 Brent at the time, just got offered a Static X tour and we couldn’t really say no, because A, he wouldn’t care and he would do it anyways, and B it was a dream of his to be in a big band and to go on a tour on a bus. I had already done all of that stuff and what was I going to do, get mad and say, “No!”? Carlton also, got the opportunity to be in Orgy and he wanted to be in both bands, but the manager insisted that we had a full time dedicated band. I think we went through seven guitarists in the span of a year! [laughs] It was just crazy. I spent more time that year teaching strangers my songs, that I should had just become a band teacher at that point. We were running a band camp, I swear. By the end of it, none of them stuck. None of them were the right people. Our former bassist, Martin Kelly filled in the whole time and he was awesome. I have nothing but awesome things to say about him. He did really great. He is in this really good band called Living Dead Lights and they just did a three month tour in Europe, so that’s his love, being in that band. We were really really lucky to have him play with us, but it is really cool to have the  real lineup back together, especially with Walter. That is really the best thing…ever.

 

SM: What is it that essentially ties The Dreaming together? What keeps today’s members holding their ground in this group?
CH: Honestly, Dropbox. [laughs] That ties us all together. We did this entire album through Dropbox. We would all write out each part of the song, send it to Walter and he would strip it down. The majority of the new album, I had written before Walter and Carlton joined up. I was just so frustrated at the time and was banging my head against the wall with trying to get these people that I was playing with to understand what I was trying to do and to write with me. I was like, “Oh my god, this is hopeless!” I finally called Carlton, and was like, “I am so sorry. I am so sorry that I was such a dick. Please, come back to The Dreaming.” Luckily he agreed! He was in the Valley and I live in Pasadena, which is only about 40 minutes apart, but I have a one year old baby that I am with 12 hours out of the day and I can’t be driving with my kid to a studio. Not to mention, Walter lives in Chicago.  We all have studios in our homes, So I would send stuff to Walter and once we got his ideas down he would send them to Carlton and he would  lay guitars, or would sometimes say, “let’s try this instead!”

It was really the three of us working together the way that Stabbing Westward had never ever functioned before.
That’s one of the things that really drives me nuts, when people make the Stabbing Westward comparison to The Dreaming. The Dreaming is a functional band where we all have massive amounts of respect for each other, both as people and as musicians. We write to make the music the absolute best that it can be without the ego and no regard as to who wrote what and whose contribution was used. Stabbing Westward was the complete opposite of what The Dreaming is. It was three different people writing music without collaborating at all. I mean, Walter and I would work together, but for the most part it was this big battle between writers and where no one would collaborate together on each others songs. If I wrote a song, the drummer wouldn’t actually play drums on my song, he would make me program my own drums. So when people say that they miss Stabbing Westward, I’m like, “I don’t!” I love being in this band, because everyone can function together as adults.

 

SM: Yourself, Walter and Carlton play if not all, then most of the instruments during the recording process. Does it ever become too complicated having three multi-talented musicians working with the same instrumentals?
CH: No, I think we all have our own specialties. Carlton, is hands down the best guitarist and bassist. However, Walter can write these crazy, beautiful bass lines. Sometimes he plays them so cool with a certain groove and fluidity to them that anyone who tries to recreate it can’t really make it sound the same, so we just leave his bass tracks on. Walter also will write guitar tracks on songs and but Carlton will replay them to make them sound better, but on almost every song there are a few of these weird ambient guitar tracks from Walter.  I’ve done a few guitar tracks with a few weird melodies. Walter and Carlton are pretty much equal, in my opinion, on the keyboards, they just have very very different styles, which is awesome because it keeps the record from being one dimensional. And no can sing like me, so I cover that portion of it! [laughs] I do some of the keyboard programming on the record and Johnny plays all of the drums. I think it is cool that everyone has a deep understanding of music and instruments and that if Walter had a guitar idea we just go, “OK, well did you play it well enough? did you get the amp sound that you wanted, or should we have Carlton re-track it?” Like I said, before there is no ego involved so it all works out really well for everyone involved.

 

SM: From hearing the story of your reunion with Walter, you both seem to be in sync when it comes to constructing your music. This is rate when it comes to uniting to create music with a seemingly natural feel for each others’ abilities and creative tastes.  What brings about such chemistry between musicians?  Is it a “Match at first chord”, so to speak, or is it something that comes with time of collaborating?
CH: I think it comes from 20 years collaborating, but I also think that it comes with growing up in the same place. We both grew up 30 miles apart and he is a year younger than me. We both went to high school together and we were friends. We grew up listening to basically the same music. His influences were more 80’s Metal and I was into 80’s New Wave. So, he was listening to Bon Jovi and I was listening to The Cure, but when we got in college, we kind of got onto the same music listening path. All of our influences are pretty similar and we were both in marching/concert band, so yeah we were band geeks! that makes our sense of song structure and melodies rooted in classical music. I think it is just two people grew up listening to almost the same music.
 Now, Carlton is of the younger side of our generation, but he grew up listening to the same music that we listened to, He is a natural fit too, but he has younger influences; he was really into 90’s music when I was in a band in the 90’s, but oddly enough I was still listening to 80’s music. I think that is what is comes down to.

SM: How did Rhys Fulber pull the best out of The Dreaming? What made his role in mixing this record vital for all of you?
CH: We made it sound good, first and foremost. We did demos that we thought sounded good, that Carlton had mixed. Rhys mixed it in a way that was far more professional. No disrespect to Carlton of course! Carlton’s mixes are really awesome, they are really edgy and really heavy. We like that and we thought it sounded industrial, but we are not really an industrial band. We are more of like The Birthday Massacre. I think one of the most important things is that Rhys had heard that. He was like, “You guys are a really cool band who writes really great songs, but you are trying to hard to bury great songs in these noises and transformer sounds. You have a great singer, let your voice be heard. You have a great drummer, so stop relying on all these drum loops and machines. Let your drummer do his job.” He essentially said that we are a great live band and that we need to get that live energy on the album and blend it with the electronics and stuff that we desperately wanted to have on the record.

The first two records were derailed between the times that we wrote the songs and the time it took to get mastered and put on the record. They were derailed by managers and people who want us to sound like “rock” and what was on rock radio. Like what were people listening to in Topeka, Kansas and they wanted us to sound like that.  Not a single keyboard or drum loop or synth was heard. On this album, ‘Rise Again’, we were so determined to have that part of our sound to finally be heard and we were over compensating for that and Rhys heard it. He actually didn’t dial back the electronics at all, they are all still there. He just made sure that the real music and the musician playing  shined through on the tracks and it was very cool. He gave us a sense of respect for ourselves. Rhys is really good at dialing in these analog keyboard sounds but he uses this gigantic modular synth that he had on the wall. There are just a bunch of patch cords and knobs! I actually learned how to program an analog synth! He’s a cool guy and he did an awesome job on the record.

SM: It must have been nice to finally have someone basically ask what you want to sound like and work with you step by step to achieve that goal, rather than just having a manager say, ‘No. You are going to sound like this, because that’s what is big on the radio. Follow this generic format.’
CH:
  Oh god. I have been chasing that problem since the last Stabbing Westward album. That record was a disaster, because the manager and the person she hired to produce and mix it, wanted us to become like a softer Goo Goo Dolls version of the band.

 

SM: You’re kidding…
CH:
No, I’m not! [laughs] At that time, the alternative radio had gone kind of soft. They were like, “Ok let’s make everything softer and let’s take out the keyboards!” There was like a revolt in the band, and eventually we just got locked out of the studio. We were like, ‘how the hell did we lose control of our band? At what point did we let these people decide what we were going to sound like?’ So when we formed The Dreaming I thought, well those days are over, but there were still outside influences trying to take our sound and change it. The thing that was crazy is that, if were a really young band and we had no idea what we wanted to sound like, then I would understand, but we weren’t. We were a band who already achieved a level of success based on a certain style . You know, these managers, and record labels just don’t understand that. That’s why are so lucky for Metropolis Records. Thank god for them.

SM: When Rise Again drops in February, it will have been 4 years since your last record. You are releasing this third full length through Metropolis Records. Do you feel confident in both The Dreaming’s craftsmanship with this record as well as Metropolis taking you guys in?

CH: I am confident in us and I am so happy that Metropolis took us in. It has been a goal of mine since the beginning. I tried to get our second record on Metropolis, but the timing just didn’t work out. We got foolishly impatient and we took the other record deal, which turned out to be a disaster. I have the utmost faith in Metropolis. Just follow the trajectory of The Birthday Massacre and you’ll understand my faith in Metropolis Records, because they [The Birthday Massacre] write great songs and  Chibi is a great singer, not just screaming like a lot of these other bands that you hear and MR is behind them 100%. They are respected for what they do and that is what we are looking for. Just let us be who we are. I know that there are people who will understand and appreciate that. Not all bands should sound the same. Every band shouldn’t have screaming vocals and super loud everything. We are what we are and Metropolis is the label to let us be that. Hopefully fans will find that and like it!

‘Rise Again,’ The Dreaming’s third full length EP will be released February 10th through Metropolis Records. Be sure to pre-order your copy through Metropolis Records’ web store.